Class Shopping and Hallway Wandering

At Harvard, you don’t just sign up for classes. You shop for them. Indeed, the first week of the semester is actually known as “shopping period,” where you can drop in and out of classes as wish and ask (to yourself), “Is this topic interesting?” “Is the professor engaging?” “Can I get up this early?” If the answers are yes, you sign up. No? Keep looking.

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Bad blogger, worse dieter

Well, my two-week entry to the “South Beach Diet” was minimally successful, even if my promise to consistently blog about it wasn’t.

By the end of the two-week period, I had lost about 8 pounds. That was about half of my intended goal, but that’s okay. I definitely found that my cravings for bread and other carbs diminished, with the exception of pasta. One recent evening I boiled up a pot of rotini with some salt and olive oil and after Sammy had her share, I found myself hovering over the colander stuffing handfuls of pasta into my mouth.

Still, I can see a path forward for continued weight loss and improved diet. No more snack foods. Only the rare soda. Ice cream just once a week or so. More salad.

It’s nothing revolutionary, but it does require commitment. We’ll see how it goes.

Shooting video

Here are some quick tips for journalists for shooting successful Web video:

Put the camera on a tripod. Shaky video stinks. And, when compressing video for the web, stable video will compress much, much better.

Set up subject with microphone. Remember, 70 percent of video is audio. So, place a lav mic under your interview subject’s chin, about a hand’s length away. Make sure mic is working. (Cables are plugged in, tight, batteries are working, devices turned on, settings are correct, etc.) Always, always, always monitor your audio.

Pick a location with either no ambient sound or with relevant ambient sound (watch out for electronic hums, distracting environmental sounds). Level the shot. Keep sun at your back. Avoid placing the subject in front a bright background. This is esp. true for people with dark complexions. Look around the frame. Try to fill it with interesting information. Watch out for errant objects. Follow the rule of thirds. Compose your shot so it has depth and interesting angles. Don’t put the interview subject in the middle of the frame with the camera straight on. Too harsh and BORING.

Turn off cell phones. They interfere with audio. Also, people have a magical ability to call you in the middle of a shoot.

Set white balance. Every lighting situation is different. If you can, set your white balance.

Turn on auto focus. Zoom into subject’s eyes to focus. Turn off auto focus. Zoom out. Don’t move the camera.

Set exposure. Make sure the stuff you need to see is exposed correctly. Better to slightly underexpose that to overexpose.

Roll for 30 seconds at the beginning of the tape. Before each shot, roll for about 5 seconds, and then roll for about five seconds at the end of the shot.

Keep the shot steady. Don’t pan, don’t zoom. Let action unfold in front of you.

Monitor audio with headphones.

Ask questions that require full answers. For example, ask compound questions; requests; commands. Don’t ask yes/no questions.

Ask questions over again to get more cogent answers. Often, people will say something a second time that is more articulate than the first time they said it. Use silence to get people to talk.

Avoid conversational prompts/respones (uh huh, yeah, etc.).

Take notes while you shoot. Try to make note of timecode. Make a shot list of things to get B-roll of. If the interview subject talks about his feet, remember to shoot footage of his feet.

Vary your shots. Lots and lots of close-up/detail shots. Get action and reaction. Don’t just shoot the flames, shoot the firefighters resting, drinking water, wiping sweat from their brows. The crowd watching, people crying, etc.

Get your mic back when you’re done.